Video interview in Morristown with actor Edward Burns, on his new Christmas movie

Chances are, someone in The Fitzgerald Family Christmas will remind you of a relative.

It’s about a giant, dysfunctional family on Long Island that never handles the holidays well. But the pump really is primed for disaster when the Fitzgeralds’ patriarch wants back in after ditching the clan 20 years earlier.

Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullen, She’s the One, Newlyweds), the writer, director and star of the picture, shot it six doors down from his childhood home in Valley Stream. That’s where the similarity to his real-life Christmases ends, he said Wednesday after a Morristown screening at the New York Film Critics series.

“The bigger dramatic moments are either stories I’ve heard from other folks, or just the fun of writing it and letting your imagination do its thing,” Ed said, describing his boyhood holidays as “the complete opposite of this. We’re lucky in that we get along pretty well.”

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The Fitzgerald Family Christmas has a good ensemble cast that includes Ed Lauter (The Artist, Trouble With the Curve) and Connie Britton (The West Wing, 24, Friday Night Lights and soon, Nashville). Ed Burns weaves a 99-minute tapestry of characters and subplots that would make Tolstoy smile, Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers quipped during a Q & A session.

In fact, Ed Burns envisioned a writing career. A college film class changed his life. He just wanted an easy A. But a Billy Wilder movie opened his eyes to the creative possibilities of moviemaking.

Actor Ed Burns discusses his new film, 'The Fitzgerald Family Christmas,' at the New York Film Critics series in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Actor Ed Burns discusses his new film, 'The Fitzgerald Family Christmas,' at the New York Film Critics series in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Admiring Woody Allen’s style, he decided to tell his own kind of personal stories, mining his Irish-American upbringing.

The Brothers McMullen was written and produced in between day jobs; as a go-fer at Entertainment Tonight in 1995, he seized an opportunity to slip a VHS copy into Robert Redford’s hand. Two weeks later, Ed Burns was the toast of the Sundance Festival.

A starring role in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan followed. But Ed, now 44, still loves making small indie movies. Last year’s Newlyweds was made with one $3,000 camera at a total cost of less than $135,000–and he releases these gems immediately to iTunes and video-on-demand cable networks.

Ed shared his advice for aspiring moviemakers in a video interview with This is the “greatest time” for directors, thanks to inexpensive digital gear, he said. New filmmakers should edit their scripts ruthlessly, he said, and have the courage to keep failing until they strike paydirt.

He also compared the challenges of writing, acting and directing; explained the advantages of online distribution; and acknowledged his wife, former supermodel Christy Turlington, as a vital sounding board for his work.

Trailer for ‘The Fitzgerald Family Christmas’

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Copyright 2012

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